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Five Element Ninjas (1982)

Cast: Meng Lo
Director: Cheh Chang
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Studio: Tokyo Shock
Genre: Foreign, China, Martial Arts, Ninja
Running Time: 100 min.
Languages: Cantonese
Subtitles: English

Five Element Ninjas is a legend amongst fans of Asian cult fare and for once, the legend lives up to the hype. This kung-fu effort is almost exuberant in its flamboyant weirdness. The storyline hurls the audience headlong into a steadily-paced array of bizarre fighting techniques, exotic weaponry and frequent outbreaks of gory hand-to-hand combat. The actual plotline sticks to simple martial arts genre tropes (taking revenge for a fallen master, training to beat a fighter with superior techniques, etc.) but the actual methods used are so off the wall that no fan will care. Director Chang Cheh wisely avoids any trace of camp humor, focusing on the story's pulp-heroic action and allowing the eccentricity of the odd fighting styles and weapons to speak for itself. As usual for this point in Chang Cheh's career, the lead roles are taken by the martial artists known as "the Five Venoms" and they all deliver plenty of kinetic excitement here. In fact, the final twenty minutes is the kind of high-kicking bloodbath that is guaranteed to leave any fan of these films smiling and slackjawed. Thus, Five Element Ninjas is the kind of gloriously over-the-top blowout that every genre fan needs to see.

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